There are varying degrees of cheating in baseball.
Using cameras to steal the opposing catcher’s signs? That crosses the line. Pine tar too far up on the handle of the bat? Technically not allowed, but it’s widely accepted.
Major League Baseball finds itself embroiled in yet another “cheating scandal” — they seem to be involved in a new one every five years or so — as the league looks to crack down on pitchers using illegal foreign substances on the baseball to improve their grip and increase spin rate.
The controversy stems from an Associated Press report that four minor league pitchers have been suspended this season for using an illegal substance on the baseball. The report led Major League Baseball to hold a meeting in which cracking down on the practice was the main topic of conversation. As a result, umpires will reportedly check pitchers caps, gloves and uniforms for foreign substances on a more frequent basis throughout games.
The question however, is how important is it to get this current “scandal” corrected?
Is finding a way to get a better grip on the baseball really cheating? I’m going with no on this one, and I’m not alone.
New York Mets all-star first baseman Pete Alonso doesn’t worry about pitchers gaining a competitive advantage by using a foreign substance, he’s more worried about pitchers not having a firm enough grip.
“Since the start of the game, pitchers have been using ‘substances’ — I mean, there’s a bag of rosin behind the mound right now to help guys dry their hands and get grip,” Alonso said. “For me, I think whether they’re using pine tar, rosin, Bullfrog, sunscreen and rosin, whatever they want to use to help control the ball, let them use it. Because for me, I go in the box every single day and I see guys throwing harder and harder every day. I don’t want 99 slipping out of someone’s hand because they didn’t have enough feel for it.”
Major League Baseball — especially hitters — will point to the increase in strikeouts and the league-wide batting average of .236 through May 31 as examples of why the practice needs to be stopped, but it’s deeper than that.
The approach at the plate for hitters in modern baseball has never been less about contact. The increased use of analytics, the shift, and the emphasis on “launch angle” all factor into the decrease in offensive numbers.
Rod Carew — Hall of Famer and seven-time batting champion — sees the approach at the plate as a bigger issue than pitchers putting a little pine tar on the baseball.
“Today they’re trying to get kids that can’t hit home runs to uppercut the ball and make a lot of outs in the sky,” Carew said on the Daily Delivery podcast. “They forgot there are more base hits on the ground than hitting the ball in the air. I could have hit home runs if I wanted to, but that wasn’t my job.”
Carew noted that pitchers have been doctoring baseballs for as long as the game has been around, as he dealt with it in his professional days.
“I used to tell Gaylord Perry, you can throw (a spitball) to me as much as you want. I’m just going to pick out the dry side and hit it on the dry side. He threw me a lot of them, and I expected that to happen whenever I faced him. That’s part of the game. Pitchers will do different things,” Carew said. “We had pitchers that would have pieces of sandpaper in their gloves to scuff the ball. Before I started playing, one of the big-time catchers in the major leagues would just kind of clip the baseball on his spikes before throwing it back to the pitcher. It’s amazing what pitchers can do with a little nick or rub.”
The focus on pitchers illegally applying foreign substances to baseballs in order to increase spin is just the modern way of gaining an advantage. According to Carew, hitters should make an adjustment at the plate, instead of complaining about pitchers doctoring the ball.
“I think the shift is overrated, and I’m disappointed in the players who don’t try to take advantage by making adjustments to go the other way,” Carew continued. “So many kids in today’s game are guessers. They’re guessing what the pitch is going to be instead of learning how to track the ball and then having an idea of what they want to do with it. I learned how to track the ball by trying to pick the ball up out of a pitcher’s hands and reacting to that instead of trying to guess along.”
There will always be those that feel any form of competitive advantage is tantamount to cheating, but baseball guys know this isn’t the case. Take a look at the Baseball Hall of Fame. Half the players in the Hall — and that’s a conservative number – could be accused of “cheating.”
I’m with Carew on this – make an adjustment fellas.
Joe Morgan is the Sports Reporter for The Daily Wire. Most recently, Morgan covered the Clippers, Lakers and the NBA for Sporting News. Send your sports questions to email@example.com.
The views expressed in this piece are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent those of The Daily Wire.
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